Anti-bacterial, self-cleaning material developed for making face masks, PPE equipment

The nanomaterial can be cleaned by simply keeping it in bright sunlight

nurse-ppe-covid-test-coronavirus-us-AP (Image for representation) | AP

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi have developed a virus-filtering, self-cleaning and antibacterial material that can be used to make face masks and other PPE equipment to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The team claims that the developed nanomaterial can clean the mask by simply keeping it in bright sunlight and make it ready to wear again.

The results of the research have recently been published in the prestigious journal of the American Chemical Society - Applied Materials and Interfaces.

According to the researchers, face masks have become a default piece of apparel to be worn in public in these pandemic times.

"Keeping the urgency of the pandemic situation and cost-effectiveness in mind, we have developed a strategy to repurpose existing PPEs, especially face masks, by providing an antimicrobial coating to these protective clothing and textiles. For this, the research team has used such materials that are a hundred thousand times smaller than the width of the human hair to confer antimicrobial properties to polycotton fabric," Amit Jaiswal, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi, said.

The team has incorporated nanometre sized sheets of molybdenum sulphide, MoS2, the sharp edges and corners of which act as tiny knives that pierce bacterial and viral membranes, thus killing them.

"The 'nanoknife'-modified fabrics demonstrated excellent antibacterial activity even after 60 cycles of washing. Improperly disposed off PPEs are a serious secondary source of transmission, and having reusable antimicrobial masks can help circumvent this risk. The reusability of the fabric will also enable it to be integrated with homemade masks.

"The researchers have developed prototypes of a 4-layered face mask using the MoS2 modified fabric. They report that these masks, in addition to killing microbes and being light-cleanable, can also filter more than 96 pc of particles that are in the size range of the COVID virus (120 nanometres), without compromising on breathability of the fabric, and could thus be a powerful tool to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other microbial infections.

"We expect that the impact of this innovation on society will be immense and immediate, considering the current situation of global COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed materials can also be used to fabricate screens and sheets for creation of makeshift isolation wards, containment cells and quarantines for holding individuals who come in contact with pathogens," said Jaiswal.